Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

By now you’ve probably noticed that we haven’t declared an April 2009 Magazine of the Month. After covering the Cook’s Illustrated Best Of, CC and I were enamored with such success since “Best Of” magazines theoretically deliver what their name says: The best.

Keep in mind I said “theoretically”.

Best Of Cooking Light Volume 10

So as I was rushing through my grocery store, I saw the Cooking Light Best Of Volume 10: One-hundred and twenty-five of their best recipes of the year. I thought of the success we had with CI, and I was thinking about my vow to start cooking healthier, and picked it up. After a cursory flip through (the pictures look great), I decided to bring it home and give it a whirl for the MoM segment.

CC and I had a brief discussion on who got to cook what. He won out on the Pink Peppercorn Mahi Mahi with Tropical Salsa, since he promised he’d post about it. Sucker that I am for promises of a post, I compromised and picked Grilled Chicken with Roasted Grape Tomatoes.

CL - Grilled Chicken with Roasted Grape Tomatoes
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine

Despite it being spring everywhere else, the current temperature in western New York is 45°F and snowing. Needless to say, I didn’t drag out my grill and go to town. Instead, I resorted to my trusty George Foreman, my trusty indoor grilling machine.

Grilled Chicken with Roasted Grape Tomatoes
Courtesy of Cooking Light

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts or 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray

My grocery store was out of skinless, boneless chicken thighs, so I used breasts. Also, I have a lot of chicken breasts in the freezer and wanted to use what I had on hand. The trick with breasts is making sure they don’t dry out, because breasts have a tendency to do that if you’re not watching them closely enough or cook them for a minute or two too long. From the ingredient listing, I could tell that was going to be a clincher, since the finished chicken is pretty natural — no sauces, no breading, just chicken and (hopefully) delicate lemon.

Step 1: Prepare the Foreman. (Alternatively, prepare the grill.)

George Foreman
He’s always ready for action.

Step Two: To prepare chicken, combine first lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 25 minutes, turning the bag occasionally. The original recipe calls for a 15 minute marinading time, but since I was using breasts, which are larger and dry out more easily during cooking, I left it in longer.

Lemon Zest

Step Three: Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Grilled Chicken with Lemon & Garlic 1

Whenever I take my meat out of the marinade, I’m never sure if I should wipe the marinade off or not. In this case, I guessed not because I wanted more of the lemon and garlic to get into the breasts while they cooked.

Step Four: Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.

Even on the Foreman, I should have used cooking spray. I didn’t in this case, and some of my chicken stuck. It wasn’t a big deal — just surface-level stuff, but it was a little ugly when I flipped the breasts.

I watched these pretty carefully and, when in doubt, I made an incision in the thickest part of the breast to make sure they were done. As I said earlier, I did not want them to dry out.

Grilled Chicken 2

While that’s cooking, get your roasted grape tomatoes ready.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

2 cups grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine tomatoes and 2 teaspoons oil in an 8-inch square baking dish; toss gently. Bake at 425° for 18 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Combine tomato mixture, parsley, and remaining ingredients, stirring gently. Serve with chicken.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

The chicken turned out moist with a nice lemon flavor and, when slightly salted, was decent. The AwK admin even had no gripes about it, which surprised me because he isn’t a fan of lemon. He wasn’t in love with it, but he didn’t hate it. It was just okay. The look of the chicken wasn’t fantastic, and could have benefited from being sliced on an angle and served over rice or pasta with some flat leaf parsley. But that’s not what the recipe indicated, and I felt I should do it straight the first time through.

What really bothered me was the roasted tomatoes with capers. Because the chicken was plain and basic, there was no crunch. The tomatoes were soft and tangy, mixed with the brine of the capers… It was all just really soft. The tomatoes made me feel like I was 87 years old and had no teeth, so I was being served something institutional that I could gum on before swallowing. Rather than the roasted tomatoes, this would have been better served with a salad that had some crunchy elements — sliced celery or cucumber or whatever. The chicken was fine, but it was plain, incredibly basic, and totally uninspired. To make it worse, the tomatoes had no business being on the plate.

When I start out with a magazine, I really want to be wowed right out of the gate and, if I’m not, I have a hard time wanting to go back and cook more. Cooking isn’t necessarily cheap, and if I’m not going to be happy with what I ate the first time, there’s nothing really coaxing me back. When CC comes back from vacation and gives us his report on the mahi mahi, hopefully it’s good. If it is, then we’ll continue to share more from the Cooking Light Best Of. If not, I’m kicking it to the curb. We’ll keep you posted.

Weeknight Cooking: C
Overall Dish: D+

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